Damsels in Distress: A New Kind of Heathers

hWilt Stillman has made a career out of giving an insider’s purview into the pre-adolescent lifestyle and emotions of the trust-fund brood. Perfect examples are Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco, where protagonists opine about opposing political points of view and the eroding of certain upper class, social constructs.

In Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, a small clique of New England coeds Violet (Greta Gershwig), Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), and Heather (Carrie MacLemore) set out to change the male predominant attitudes and morays that still prevail at Seven Oaks University after years of coeducation. Transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) is taken on the wing of this trio of reformers and immediately employed at the university’s Suicide Center, the reformers’ strategic stronghold on campus, and becomes enmeshed in the politics and philosophy of the clique.

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

While Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco gave an accurate insight in the haute bourgeoisie’s raison d’etre, Damsels in Distress sometimes fails to illuminate the sincere frustration and annoyance still felt by female students on male-dominated, Ivy League universities. And though Stillman cleverly uses lots of double entendre and tongue-in-cheek dialogue to add levity to a rather overdone subject, the film never gathers enough steam to be a parody of the machinations of this post-Heathers trio or a serious look at an ongoing dilemma.

Noteworthy performances by Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton aside, Damsels in Distress lands somewhere in between half smiles, light chuckles and missed opportunity.

—William Gooch

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